I recently volunteered at the Boulder International Film Festival and one of the documentaries I saw, Modern Progress, while not as professionally crafted as I might have liked, did bring up some interesting points. They cited that although in the past 200 years we have progressed technologically more rapidly than at any time in history, we have not evolved biologically or in any other way humanly in 5,000 years. It implied that our evolution as humans has no congruity with our materialistic greed and technological advancement and it alluded that this same issue had been the cause of the fall of many civilizations prior to the advancement of our current one.
For decades we have been seduced and deluded by our beliefs that outer progress, fame and riches would somehow render us free and triumphant over the forces we fear and the conditions over which we have no control. What an interesting web of lies we’ve spun. Can all our technological advancement heal the common cold, a broken heart, the loss of a loved one, the conflict between neighbors or any personal fear? We have spent thousands of years practicing looking to outer events for our sustenance and reality. But how has that evolved us or really brought us what we, as a species, have always yearned for?
Yoga, which evolved 5,000 plus years ago and many other ancient philosophies poignantly speak to the evolution of humanity. For thousands of years, Yogis and other Mystics guarded the secrets of human evolution. But today “these secrets” are being revealed to the masses. The Yogis were not that different than modern man. They also sought what we all ultimately seek: joy, contentment, connectedness, knowledge and peace. They knew that the control and mastery that was needed began from within. The Mount Everest summits and rocket ship explorations started with mastering their own minds and bodies. They sought human evolution not outer technological progress and they revealed states of awareness that we are being summoned to explore and embrace today.
One of the classes I teach, Yoga for the Academic Environment, touches upon the relevancy of the use of ancient wisdom in today’s educational environment. True Yoga bridges the gap between the mind and body, the breath and life and offers us a practical wisdom for this time where we must also bridge the schism between our inner evolution and our outer progress. Our minds and bodies are busier and more preoccupied than ever. We are plugged in to some form of technology 24/7—some people even sleep plugged in. We must begin the process of not only slowing down, but also turning our attention to what we can control: our responses, thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions. We have placed such importance to reacting to what happens to us and around us while keeping up with the pace of life, that we have forgotten the simplest of practices of being self-responsible and looking within for our answers.
Children are incredibly open to these teachings of Yoga. Can you imagine the progress of this planet if we were taught at a young age how to control our thoughts, breath, heart rate, and digestion? What if we learned how to understand our negative emotional states and transform them? What if we understood that we all are intricately connected and part of a living, breathing universe that is made up of the same essential energy? What if we learned how to focus, concentrate and control the ceaseless chatter of the mind? What would our world look like if we learned how to be kind, gentle, generous, and loving with ourselves and others? If we combined these practices with the ABCs, just imagine how we might begin to evolve humanly.
Progress would no longer be measured by political power or financial success or by the speed of technical toys. Simple isn’t it? Begin today. Do something different. Spend ten minutes a day looking behind your eyes. Breathe, watch your thoughts, sit in gratitude, pet your cat, hug your dog, take a walk and just watch—no iPod, no words, and no distractions. Everyday add a new practice to simplify, observe and get acquainted with the reservoir of quiet, wisdom and joy that lies within you.
In loving practice,